PureDWTS Season 26, Week 2 – Power Rankings

If it felt weird last week to be 1/4 way through this season, it feels even weirder that we’re at the halfway point this week – and the votes from tonight’s show are determining the finalists. I still feel like I’m getting to know these couples…and some of them are still finding their groove…and already I’m having to pick who the ultimate contenders for the MBT are.  Is this what it felt like back in season 1? Thirteen years has fogged my memory of those simpler times 😛

I hereby nominate Shad Jennings as the gold standard for guest judges on DWTS 🙂 Seriously, the guy could not have done a better job – he somehow managed to give very personal, very relevant critiques to each couple, while remaining encouraging and keeping it brief.  He wasn’t wordy and petty like Donny O., he wasn’t nitpicky & self-aggrandizing like Alfonso, he didn’t try to turn everything into a joke like Kevin Hart, he didn’t ramble on aimlessly like Shania, and he managed to give more than the standard boilerplate “It was great!” responses like Zendaya. Anymore, I couldn’t care less whether the guest judge actually critiques the dance – leave it to three stooges to actually point out the negatives, and let the guest judge be more of a motivator that just happens to score pretty closely to what the stooges do. Shad did just that – and damn, if that man isn’t articulate AF…Shad, if you need a new gig, can you just come narrate my life? Pretty sure you could give an eloquent play-by-play of me flossing my teeth. 😛

Sometimes, I find myself giggling at some of the truly wacky sh*t they make the troupe members do – reminds me of the dumb stuff we made the pledges do back when I was in my sorority, although the fraternities usually far bested us in the “weird stuff to make the pledges do” category.  As the sweetheart of one house, I once had pledges of that particular fraternity walking me to class HOLDING AN UMBRELLA OVER MY HEAD for one entire, rainy week, a la Diddy & his hip-hop manservant, Fonzworth Bentley (anyone remember whatever happened to that guy?).  Watching Brandon running around in a bear suit, or Hayley doing salsa with Lindsay on her shoulders, or watching the rest of the troupe duck through Kareem’s legs like an never-ending clown car last night just drives the point home that they really do kinda haze the troupe members, before they let them become pros 😛

So with last night’s votes basically determining the three couples who make the finals (and contrary to what fans seemed to be saying last week, it is only THREE couples, not four), I’m left feeling a bit wishy-washy about at least two of those couples.  Gun to my head, I think Adam makes it to the finals no matter what, and Jennie doesn’t, no matter what; the other two spots could be any combination of the remaining four couples – my gut says they’re going to do whatever they can to ensure Mirai ends up in the finals, so she’s probably in, too; I think Tonya deserves the third spot in the finals (and I think the producers would absolutely DROOL at the prospect of an all-figure skater finale), but Josh could possibly take it as well if he really does get the NFL vote, and if Chris does well next Monday, he could also be the dark horse, a la Frankie, for that third spot. Really, though – at the rate he’s going, I’d be shocked if anyone other than Adam won this season.  Granted, he could (but probably won’t) have an off-week next week or in the actual finals, and it could make it a tighter race between he & Mirai…but at the end of the day, I think Adam pulls this off, no matter what.

1.) Adam & Jenna – There’s only two couples I feel confident in predicting their fate next week – and this is one of them, as I think Adam is really the only one that’s likely guaranteed a spot in the finals at this point.  I feel like he’s the best dancer left that doesn’t have personality/likeability issues, and has a pro that can consistently choreograph to his strengths while still serving enough content to please the judges.  Really, though – Adam & Jenna just have such synergy together.  Shad hit the nail on the head when he talked about chemistry – we know that Adam & Jenna are both great at what they do, but together, they’re greater than the sum of their parts. Quickstep really seemed to suit that upper-body flight of Adam’s that I mentioned last week, and he stayed right in the pocket with the timing, frame, and footwork. Jenna has done a good job of giving him appropriate choreo that he can still have fun with.  I think these two are going to be tough to beat in that finale.

2.) Mirai & Alan – *sigh* Mirai, Mirai, Mirai…I knew very little about you headed into this season, and was ready to give you a fair shake despite some viewers complaining that you didn’t paint yourself in a very flattering light in Pyeongchang. But two weeks in a row now, you’ve really grated with some of the things you’ve said/done in your rehearsal packages – and like Jennie, I think you succeeded this week in coming across as totally high-maintenance and whiny, shedding tears over tying for 2nd place last week. Girrrrrl…lock it up.  We get it, you’re an Olympian and you’re competitive – but save those tears for when you’re getting 5’s & 6’s in week 1, not 7’s & 8’s. As for Alan – I appreciate him trying to cheer Mirai up, but he still seems pretty green to me as a pro, and is still prone to “excited puppy” syndrome from time to time. The dance itself wasn’t bad, technique-wise – no huge complaints from me there, but the Disney theme and overall production? That felt heavy-handed and very commercial, as if the higher-ups at ABC said “Look, we don’t have time for Disney week this season, so we have to figure out how to give the parent company their promised free advertisement – I know! Let’s just give Mirai the Disney-est song ever, pull a few of the Disney costumes/set pieces out of storage, and to top it all off, we’ll send Mirai & Alan to Disney for the day and tape it for their rehearsal package! Problem solved.” Sure, the dance was pretty – but it also felt like it was trying to sell me a day pass to the Magic Kingdom, while extorting $200+ out of me for Mickey Mouse ears and replica glass slippers, and trying to convince me that my future children will think I’m a failure as a mother if I don’t shell out the $15 for the commemorative cup with the Dole Whips I’m buying them. Just…no. But it tied Mirai for the high score of the night, and probably helped boost her chances of getting into the finals.  The question is – can viewers overlook her shortcomings, personality-wise?  I think that’s going to end up being the deciding factor in whether or not she makes the finals.

3/4.) TIE: Tonya & Sasha and Chris & Witney – After tonight, I feel like these are the two most likely to be duking it out for that last spot in the final – Tonya continued to prove herself as dancer this week, while Chris threw his hat in the ring as a contender. Tonya had another strong dance, where she managed to stay on-time, maintained a good frame, and still managed to sell the performance – and I think it benefited her that she seemed to embrace the “Redneck Woman” theme, which tells us that she maybe doesn’t take herself quite so seriously anymore.  It’s also been encouraging to see a lot of the Tonya hate from the preseason dying down, and I’m seeing a lot more viewers adopting the “it’s a new chapter in her life” outlook and giving her a fair shake – and even if they aren’t, hell, at least they’re shutting up and not blowing up my mentions to rake Tonya across the moral coals.  However, I’m interested to see how well she does with the Latin – can she maintain the momentum? As for Chris, I think he wins the “most improved since week 1” award, as I saw some genuinely impressive stuff in his Viennese waltz last night.  His footwork was great, he stayed on-time, he was giving us swing and sway…and oddly enough, I found myself most impressed with his side-by-side work with Witney, where they managed to say perfectly synchronized.  As I said on Twitter last night – he was giving me serious Hinch-in-week-1-of-season-23 vibes 😎 Chris went from “he’s super cute and charming, and a decent dancer” in week 1, to “holy crap, this guy can really dance – and he’s fun and charming!” in week 2…so I wouldn’t be shocked if he somehow managed to elbow his way into the finale, especially after his appearance in jeopardy last night.  Also, props to Witney, who continues to come into her own with her choreography – really liked what she gave us last night.

5.) Josh & Sharna – Sorry to the Sharna fans hoping that this would “finally be the season that she gets her MBT!” – not only do I not think she’ll get it this this time, I’m not even entirely convinced that she’s going to be in the finale after last night. Josh isn’t bad – he’s a definite showman, and he seems like he wants to be there.  But he was seriously clipping his lines during his paso last night, and I never felt like he ever fully got in the pocket with the beat.  He wasn’t bad in the team dance, but he definitely had some synchronization issues – and I feel like we were seeing the unfortunate result of him having to sacrifice rehearsal time for football stuff.  And I think the thing that is really hindering him, aside from what I’ve already mentioned, is that I still feel like I don’t really know Josh – on a regular season, where we had time to get to know the couples more, I feel like we would get more of a feel for Josh as a person by now; I think back to Donald, Shad, Jacoby, etc. and all the personal struggles they had shared by this point in the competition on their respective seasons – and Josh still seems like a stock character to me. Will he get the “NFL vote”? Maybe. But I have to wonder if its effect is diminished on a shorter season like this one.

6.) Jennie & Keo – This is the only other thing I feel confident in saying this week – that Jennie definitely WON’T make the finals. I’m honestly floored that she didn’t get sent packing this week – she had a pretty mediocre, forgettable dance last week (with a relatively tame personality), and tied for the lowest score in the individual round this week (although she did benefit from being on Team 70’s Football, and managed to at least tie for last place with Josh in cumulative score).  Additionally, she came across a tad whiny & high-maintenance in her rehearsal package – and even though she tossed around popular demographic buzzwords like “faith” and “God”, I think a decent number  of folks like me probably found it grating.  Her cha-cha was a hot mess – she didn’t look like she had any idea what to do with her feet, and those stubby T-Rex arms she was giving us just made me cringe.  Didn’t really appear to be enjoying herself, either, and generally seemed pretty timid. The look on her face up in the skybox when she said “It’s been fun!” seemed to indicate to me that this has, in fact, NOT been fun for her, and she’s ready to go.  Keo, you did the best you could with what you were given – but I don’t know that Jennie was really prepared for this.

Thoughts on the team dances:

Yeah…I’m not going to pretend this was a 100% fair fight, because they stuck the two biggest ringers of the season on a team together, with a better song, a better theme, and generally more able-bodied celebs, while throwing the other team the cumulatively weaker dancers, a harder theme, and a 7’2″ albatross. The one advantage I think Team Tennis had was their pros – Sharna, Lindsay, Witney, & Sasha have a cumulatively MUCH better choreographic prowess than Jenna, Alan, Gleb, & Keo, and the former quartet was able to actually churn out a pretty respectable dance despite deficient raw materials. Turning Kareem into a fairly stationary focal point was a smart choice, as was keeping the synchronized choreo pretty simple so he could keep up; also appreciated that everyone seemed pretty high-energy and like they were having fun, and I’ll give particular props to Chris & Tonya (particularly Tonya) as the MVP’s of Team Tennis, as they seemed to be keeping up with the choreo and really selling the performance well. I will also tip my hat to the fact that they seemed to be trying to use the floor in an interesting way, and were changing shapes and lines quite a bit.  Sure, it was a tad sloppy in the end – but not nearly as much worse than Team Football as the judges would like you to think. As for Team Football – yes, they did better on the whole, but I expected them to, given that they had the better raw materials to work with.  “Instant Replay” is a helluva lot better song than some obscure big band-style “Baby One More Time” cover; and at least “70s football” invokes a stronger dance theme than does “50’s tennis”. I think throwing in some hustle was a good choice, as it fit the disco theme; I will also commend the men in the dance for remaining in pretty clean synch, and this dance overall had a higher energy level than the other team’s.  One huge problematic area I noticed was the section the ladies did near the judges table – complete lack of synch, and it was pretty damn messy…and yet, not a peep from the judges.  Don’t think I agree that this was a full four points better than the other team…but it is what it is.  Part of me wonders if either Adam or Mirai (I’m leaning towards Mirai) maybe needed a bit of a boost to ensure she made it to the finale…and the team dance was how they accomplished it.

Thoughts on the eliminated couples:

I think the deck was unfortunately stacked against Arike from the get-go – she was dealing with a bunch of red tape due to NCAA regulations, she was juggling being a full-time student with being on DWTS, AND she got saddled with a pro that could use a little help (but seems disinclined to accept any) in the choreography department.  I also got the impression that she just felt like a total fish out of water when it came to DWTS – it was just totally different than anything she’d ever done before, and she was having a hard time really giving 110% of herself to the experience…and unfortunately, it showed. But I’m glad we got to see a different side of her last night (even if Gleb’s choreo was, once again, completely lackluster), and I thought she looked lovely 🙂 As for Kareem – what a way to go out on a high note…both literally and figuratively 😛 That salsa was adorable, and Kareem looked like he was having a blast – and leave it to Lindsay to do something we’ve never seen before, and do part of the dance seated on Hayley’s capable shoulders in order to reach Kareem’s height. Other pros, take note – this is how you maintain your relevance as a pro: by constantly thinking outside the box.  But after seeing Kareem feel guilty about possibly “messing up” the team dance, I think he was probably ready to go – but really, Kareem did a very respectable job on DWTS, for being the tallest celeb we’ve ever had, with the greatest height difference between he & his partner, and also one of the oldest celebs we’ve had. Sad to see him go, but glad we got to see what we did 🙂

So what are your thoughts after last night? Did the right team win the team dance? Did the right couples go home? Who do you think is headed to the finale?